And now, many more people, houses and buildings are set to endure hurricane-force winds, which extend 80 miles out from the center of Florence.
Data from the Hurricane Hunter aircraft, coastal surface observations, and NOAA Doppler radar indicate that maximum sustained winds are near 90 miles per hour with higher gusts.
Hurricane Helene, Subtropical Storm Joyce and the potential disturbance are not expected to affect land in the next five days, if at all.
Forecasters said conditions will only get more lethal as the storm smashes ashore early Friday near the North Carolina-South Carolina line and crawls slowly inland.
SURF: Swells generated by Florence are affecting Bermuda, portions of the U.S. East Coast, and the northwestern and central Bahamas.
Its unclear exactly how many people fled, but more than 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to clear out. This is expected to last for days in the Carolinas before turning north into OH and Pennsylvania.
A Storm Surge Warning is in effect for...
Ken Graham, the director of the National Hurricane Center, said: "It truly is really about the whole size of this storm". "The combination of a unsafe storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline". Farther inland, rain totals could reach 25 centimeters (10 inches) in the Carolinas, and 15 centimeters (6 inches) in neighboring states. The storm already caused power outages and flooding on Guam, where the governor has asked President Trump for federal aid. "Today the threat becomes a reality", he said.
The US Coast Guard said it closed the ports of Wilmington and Moorehead City in North Carolina and restricted port operations in Charleston, South Carolina.
About 70 occupants have been evacuated from a hotel in Jacksonville, North Carolina after hurricane force winds threatened its the structural integrity. That's enough water to fill the Empire State Building almost 40,000 times.
About 5.25 million people live in areas under hurricane warnings or watches, and 4.9 million live in places covered by tropical storm warnings or watches, the National Weather Service said.
The region can also expect to be without several services for an extended time. Three other Southern raceways also opened campgrounds to evacuees.More news: Dua Lipa issues statement after Shanghai gig
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"You put your life at risk by staying", North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said.
The outer bands of Hurricane Florence have reached Wilmington, with weather officials saying the storm will bring unprecedented rain to the region.
More than 3,000 people joined the group Wednesday night, said volunteer moderator Katlyn McBrayer, adding that each donor is recorded in a database to match them with someone in need.
"We live in a mobile home so we were just like 'No way, '" she said. "A hurricane is like a forced vacation that you might not be able to afford". All seven of North Carolina's ferry routes were shut down.
"The shelters are not taking dogs", Ramirez said. "It's a big one", he said at the White House.
Florence was one of two major storms on Friday. "Someone is driving up a horse".
"It's insane", he said in a phone interview.
Meanwhile, churches and faith-based organizations are gathering supplies to help care for those who will be displaced after the massive storm leaves its mark.
Helene was downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm Thursday.
"Afterwards, I'm going to drink a bottle of whiskey and take a two-day nap, but right now I'm walking the neighborhood and making sure my neighbors are fine, because nobody can get in here". Although it has shown signs of weakening, it will remain a powerful force, forecasters say.
Some minor flooding was reported on the Outer Banks - barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina - and in some seaside coastal towns, as more than 110,000 power outages were reported statewide.